We need a par­a­digm shift on trans­for­ma­tion

CityPress - - Voices - Qondisa Ng­wenya voices@city­press.co.za

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Ef­fec­tive Peo­ple, Stephen Covey uses a well-known ex­am­ple from psy­chol­ogy to il­lus­trate “par­a­digm shift”. In the ex­per­i­ment, a Har­vard Busi­ness School in­struc­tor di­vided his stu­dents into two groups and gave each one, for 10 sec­onds, a card with a woman’s face. One looked young and the other old.

Af­ter col­lect­ing the cards, he pro­jected a pic­ture that com­bined both im­ages and in­vited com­ment on what they saw on the screen. With­out fail, each saw the im­age that was on the cards they were given, notwith­stand­ing the fact that the im­age in front of them was now a com­bined one. The point that Covey il­lus­trates is “if con­di­tion­ing or prim­ing can have such an ef­fect on us in 10 sec­onds, what about a life­time?” In his words, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are. That is, as we are con­di­tioned to see it.”

I posted on Face­book my alarm at the ig­no­rance and self-right­eous­ness in the so­cial­me­dia commentary that fol­lowed Sports Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula’s an­nounce­ment about the puni­tive mea­sures that he was im­pos­ing on four na­tional sports fed­er­a­tions.

In the main, the neg­a­tive commentary was com­posed of sweep­ing state­ments and the hum­drum cho­rus was clearly: “What a stupid thing to do. There you go again in­ter­fer­ing where you should not be. This is gonna de­stroy South African sport.”

Maybe I should not have been alarmed, be­cause each of us sees things not as they are but from our own par­a­digm (the world as we are con­di­tioned to see it).

Re­gard­less of what one thinks of Mbalula, at the very least one ought to take note that he ar­rived at his de­ci­sion hav­ing con­sid­ered the re­sults of the third sci­en­tific re­port by the Em­i­nent Per­sons Group on trans­for­ma­tion, in which the very same na­tional sports fed­er­a­tions par­took. The re­port states, among other things, that the Em­i­nent Per­sons Group in­ter­ven­tion has as­sisted in the fol­low­ing man­ner:

Pro­vid­ing more sci­en­tific and sys­tem­atic data on sports trans­for­ma­tion and track­ing trends of im­prove­ment or re­gres­sion;

Pro­vid­ing em­pir­i­cal ev­i­dence that as­sists codes and their sports au­thor­i­ties to de­velop their trans­for­ma­tion plans, which be­come the ba­sis for con­crete ver­i­fi­able com­mit­ment to the na­tional depart­ment of sport; and

Reg­u­larly pro­vid­ing ev­i­dence-based sports trans­for­ma­tion ad­vice to the depart­ment.

This track­ing of per­for­mance on trans­for­ma­tion is based on agree­ments signed be­tween the sport­ing codes and the depart­ment of sport and re­cre­ation, in which the fed­er­a­tions set them­selves trans­for­ma­tion tar­gets. What this means is that the tar­gets they failed to meet, as re­ported in the trans­for­ma­tion sta­tus, were their own, not Mbalula’s. Which is why the na­tional sports fed­er­a­tions have ac­cepted the re­port and its con­se­quences, since they know how th­ese came about.

In over 20 years of in­volve­ment in sports devel­op­ment and trans­for­ma­tion, I have learnt that “you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t”.

It should be noted that in­clu­siv­ity and di­ver­sity are so­cioe­co­nomic as well as moral im­per­a­tives. In a coun­try where the ma­jor­ity is still not part of the main so­cioe­co­nomic ac­tiv­ity, all man­ner and ef­fort must be put to­wards re­dress­ing that as a mat­ter of ur­gency. One must have en­force­able and ef­fec­tive mech­a­nisms, in­clud­ing puni­tive ones.

Puni­tive mea­sures would be un­nec­es­sary if the naysay­ers gath­ered their thoughts and re­alised that the world that they are look­ing at is only from their own par­a­digm, while there is out there an­other valid, morally cor­rect and so­cioe­co­nom­i­cally nec­es­sary view of the world.

For us to re­lease the ef­fec­tive change nec­es­sary in the South African sports land­scape, and in­deed the so­cioe­co­nomic land­scape in our coun­try, we need to re­alise that it re­quires a par­a­digm shift. Oth­er­wise, we are merely go­ing to stand up where we were seated in other words, hardly mov­ing. Ng­wenya is group CEO of Oc­tagon and writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity

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